Better Competitiveness, Women Empowerment Are Mainstay Of New Gujarat Textile Policy

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The textile industry is keenly awaiting the announcement of the new Gujarat Textile Policy that has been approved by the Gujarat government. The policy will be unveiled during Vibrant Gujarat Summit, from January 18-20, 2019.

The new policy has emphasis on women’s employment and safety, tax incentives, power tariff subsidies, and industry- friendly policies to make Gujarat the largest textile and apparel manufacturing hub in the country. And thus generate employment within the state. Following the announcement of the new policy, the government expects the state’s textile and apparel industry to attract investments of Rs 1000 billion, and job creation for 10-12 lakh people, over the next five years.

According to various industry associations, high power costs in Gujarat compared to Maharashtra and other states, especially Karnataka, has led to a shift of powerloom units out of Gujarat. In a recent meeting, Vijay Rupani, Chief Minister of Gujarat revealed, “The industry will be given benefits like set-off against SGST, waiver on power tariffs.” Besides giving a boost to modern textile and clothing manufacturing, the policy also addresses Gujarat’s traditional weaves and textiles – Patola, zariwork, bandhani.

Industry demands support for effluent treatment, zero discharge
Textile processing continues to be the weak link in the textile value chain. To address this issue, the Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), in its representation to the government has suggested  establishing a special processing zone with Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) around Ahmedabad and Rajkot. The  GCCI has recommended a subsidy of 75% of the cost of setting up the CETP or Rs 50 crore, whichever is lower. Saurin Parikh, Chairman, Textile Committee of GCCI informed that the chamber has also asked the government to support textile units setting up individual pollution treatment plants. “The government should provide 50% of the equipment cost upto a maximum of Rs 5 crore. Effluent treatment is the main obstacle to setting up large-scale textile processing units. In turn, we are still focused on yarn exports, and apparel remains a seasonal business.”

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The industry body has also sought incentives for implementing zero liquid discharge facilities, as industry is not opting for the same owning to high capital and operations costs. With a number of new, efficient technologies in the market, effluent treatment and ZLD are more easily achievable with a little government support. Interestingly, the GCCI has sought that spinning activity be excluded as beneficiary for capital, interest and power tariff subsidy under the new policy, except in case of value-added yarns such as linen, flax, silk, etc. The Indian spinning sector is fairly modern and competitive. But a boost is certainly needed for the value-added segment.

Why power tariffs in Gujarat need to be lower
South Gujarat clusters, including Surat, Valsad, Vapi, Umbergaon, have demanded a reduction in power tariffs to match Maharashtra tariffs. According to industry associations, the average per unit electricity tariff for industries in Gujarat comes to Rs 7.10 whereas it is Rs 3.54 per unit in Maharashtra. Matching the power tariffs of Maharashtra will stem the exodus of powerlooms from South Gujarat to Maharashtra, especially to Bhiwandi and Tarapur.

Woman empowerment a first in new version of Gujarat textile policy
Innumerable reports have revealed the serious problem of sexual harassment of women workers in textile sector, in India and other South Asian factories. The Gujarat government is probably the first to bring in policies that will ensure women’s safety in the textile industry, while also pushing the industry to give preference to women workers.

The government will give monetary incentives to textile units where women comprise 60% of the workforce. And put in place mechanisms to ensure their safety. This will be over and above the incentives announced in the new Apparels and Garments Policy 2017, unveiled last year. Under this policy, garment units are given wage subsidies for generating employment. A special provision has been made in the policy wherein women workers will be paid Rs 4,000 per month and male workers will be paid Rs 3,500 per month. The industry can avail these incentives for the next five years. South Gujarat Productivity Council (SGPC) has suggested to the state government a number of security provisions for women in the new textile policy. SGPC wants a government portal through which work could be assigned to women, a special policy for units run by women or those having more than 60% female workforce, sexual harassment cells and hostel facilities for them in industrial areas.

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According to Asha Dave, vice-president, South Gujarat Productivity Council (SGPC), “If we look at just Surat, an estimated 14 lakh people work in the textile sector there, of which 15% are women. However, only 9.5 lakh are registered with the labour department. Menial jobs in the textile sector are done by women and they need maximum care and protection. The government should reserve lace and embroidery work, etc for women and assign such jobs to them through its portal only. The women will get right remuneration for the work done by them and not be cheated.”

She said many women come to Surat for work from nearby towns and villages. Therefore, these working women should have hostel facilities, in the city. Safety and security of women should be of paramount importance to the authorities. Thus, SGPC has asked for sexual harassment cells in the industrial areas and a special policy for units run by women or those having more than 60% female workforce.

Dave in a letter to the CM has also demanded from the state government identity cards for the labourers working in the textile industry. “If a labourer’s antecedents have been verified he would hesitate to commit any crime or harass a female co-worker in a unit.”

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Parliamentary Panel To Study Working Conditions Of Women In Textile Sector
The women workers employed in Surat’s unorganised manmade fabric sector have got the attention of the Central government. A 30-member Parliamentary Committee on Empowerment of Women visited the city on November 28 to examine the condition of women workers in Surat.

According to an estimate, out of the 14 lakh workers employed in the city’s textile, embroidery and jari industries, women workers account for about 15% of the workforce. Majority of the women workers are employed in the zari and hand embroidery sector. Most of the women workers are employed in embroidery like zardosi work, butta, and lose thread cutting jobs, sari stitching, lace, pearl tikki and sitara fixing to add value to saris and dress materials, stitching in garmenting sector, preparing of soft toys, pillows and other related products from textile scrap, etc.

Vice president, SGPT, Asha Dave said, “There is an urgent need for the Central government to provide an exclusive women’s textile market in the city to boost entrepreneurial skills of the women involved in the textile sector.”

She said this is first time that the Parliamentary Committee of Lok Sabha is on a visit to understand the condition of women working in the textile sector. “We hope for proactive measures for the betterment of women workers.”

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